Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Taming the Wild

I put a lot of thought into my garden and I think at least 30% of it has failed me this season. All of this loss makes me wonder what successes I have had. What should I repeat and learn from? One of the things I thought about was growing greens all summer long. I've tried a lot of knew things. The amaranth, while successful in germination, ended up being devoured by bugs. A few made it (survival of the fittest), but then I didn't eat it because I want to collect the seed, which is fine, because it is pretty and I want the ones with the "good" genes anyway. The climbing spinach worked, although it was choked out by the other climbers I planted with it. I had a few Perpetual Spinach germinate and look ok, but I think they are waiting for cooler times to step it up. Stepping back and taking in the panoramic of the garden what I see is these gigantic lamb's quarter shrubs that I didn't plant. They are loaded with healthy greens. As a matter of fact they are healthier than most of the plants I purposefully planted. There is barely any bug damage and they can be harvested perpetually throughout the summer. Hmmmm. Think I could learn something from this plant that has spent a couple hundred of years adapting to this environment? Insert big duh here. I love lamb's quarter. I eat it whenever I can. I never plant it. It requires no water, fertilizer or pesticide. DUH! My latest take on lamb's quarter is the taming of it in phyllo dough triangles. I sauteed a huge bowl of it with a shallot, some garlic and salt and pepper and tossed it in a blender to chop. I mixed in a little Bulgarian Feta and folded these little pockets up and baked at 350 for about 18 minutes. Yum. They were even good for breakfast this morning!
My mom, brother and I often debate the "healthiest" food. I'm convinced this should be the winner. Check out the nutrient content here.  It has a low glycemic index, high anti-inflammatory properties, high protein value, high nutrient balance, over 1,000% Vitamin K, 281% Vitamin A and other vitamins and is high in calcium and other minerals. How can you go wrong? I love it more than spinach. In fact, it blows my mind that this isn't a mainstream crop. Just look at how easy it is to grow and it wouldn't have to be shipped in from outside of the midwest! Incredible. Not only will I let this go to seed I think I will collect it and grow more of it next year. Another noteworthy comment is that it grows in nearly all of Europe, where my closest ancestors likely ate it too. If they survived and ate this wild crop, surely there is a reason to continue eating it (not that I will be passing along my genes to anyone).

Another success of the year: tomatillos. They thrived while my tomatoes suffered. 
Into the blender with a chili and some onion. Raw Salsa Verde.
But even better was when I roasted the ingredients and then blended them together for Salsa Verde #2. Tomas impart a somewhat gelatinous texture to the salsa, like a thickener. It was good and different. I would grow them again. Now, I need a canned recipe to put some up for winter.

So what else- any surprise that a native fruit is more successful than ANY other fruit I've ever purchased and planted? Ya, so the orchard has had so many failures that I'm giving up on things. I'm not replanting. Any tree that dies isn't getting replaced. I will simple put in raised beds and fill it with something useful. I've been collected Wild Plums from trees I planted when I moved in about 10yrs ago. The produce loads of sour-skinned little fruits that I traditionally do nothing with. The bees of many sorts love the flowers and the butterflies come to the dropped fruits. This year I am collecting, seeding and freezing them until I have enough stored to make WINE! Yes, wine. My newest of hobbies. The fruit doesn't all drop at once, which is why I'm freezing it. I've also read that it takes 3 years to develop the best flavor. Wow. I certainly hope I don't F it up!
These are about the size of bing cherries.

My paltry tomato crop has yielded this much in canned tomato sauce:
Made of mostly Orange Icicle and Juane Flamme tomatoes.

Things that have failed or done lousy include: zucchini and yellow squash, cantaloupe and the tomatoes look like crap. I need to take this in and look to nature. What do I need to change? Obviously native plants or weeds are successful. Will I keep trying? Of course, but I have started the chopping block this year. Time to stop investing in an uphill battle and plant high-producing, dependable and self-sufficient crops. Look to a native plant to answer my questions:                Native Hibiscus
Grow where you are planted.

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